by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Friday, 31st October 2008:
PAC Chairman Azmi has undermined his own
credibility by claiming that the technical aspects of the billion-ringgit
Eurocopter deal were “above board” and “professionally carried out” when
there had been no flight tests or at most “joy rides” only!
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman
Datuk Azmi Khalid has confirmed my worst fears about his suitability as
head of the parliamentary watchdog committee as he had undermined his
own credibility by claiming that the technical aspects of the billion-ringgit
Cougar EC725 Eurocopters were “above board” and “professionally carried
out” when the two-hour parliamentary debate on the subject yesterday
proved completely otherwise.
The Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop admitted in Parliament
yesterday that the Eurocopter deal was sealed without conducting
physical evaluation on the helicopters – no test flights were done nor
were there any factory visits.
Outraged, I rose up in the House to flay the government for trifling
with the lives and safety of RMAF personnel who would have to use the
helicopters, by failing to comply with its own tender requirements for
the helicopters to replace the Nuris, which clearly stipulated that the
short-listed aircraft bidders would have to undergo stringent
documentary as well as physical evaluation.
In response to my query, Abu Seman said three of the seven bidders for
the international open tender for the utility helicopters capable of
search and rescue and capable of being upgraded to combat search and
rescue aircraft had been short-listed but he refused to name the three
This is clearly a gross defect amounting to criminal negligence in the
technical aspects of the Eurocopter selection, getting Malaysia into the
Guinness Book of Records and making us the laughing stock of the world
as a country which procures expensive and sophisticated aircrafts
without any test flight or physical evaluation – despite this being
clearly stipulated as one vital criteria in the tender process!
Abu Seman even conjured up three reasons to explain why there was no
need for physical evaluation or test flights, viz:
• First, there were complete documentations
for the technical committee to make its assessment.
• Second, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) had enough data about
helicopters in the market.
• Third, to guarantee the integrity of the six-man technical
committee so that it won’t be questioned by anyone.
These three reasons are so ludicrous, none of them would have
withstood cursory examination or minimal scrutiny!
Realising that the Deputy Defence Minister
had made a fool of the government in Parliament yesterday, the Deputy
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who was the Defence Minister at
the time of the Eurocopter procurement, tried to salvage the situation
by claiming outside the House that the Eurocopter was a proven
helicopter, which is in service in many countries and had seen combat in
Afghanistan. Furthermore, “our pilots have tried the helicopter during
the Lima Maritime Series of Exhibition so they know its performance”.
Najib’s explanation is another “shocker” in a series of “shockers” in
the most improper Eurocopter procurement process, as everybody is
wondering how “joy rides” at the Lima shows can be equated with the
stringent physical evaluation of flight tests matching international
best practices as required in the tender document.
In any event, where were the physical evaluation and test flights or
just “joy rides” for the other two short-listed aircrafts – presumably
Sikorsky S92 and AgustaWestlands AW101 – done, and couldn’t the same
claim that they are proven helicopters, seen service in many countries,
and used in combat in war zones be given for these two other helicopters
What has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt in the grilling of Abu
Seman in Parliament yesterday is that the technical aspects of the
Eurocopter deal stinks, as they have been done in a most unprofessional
and unsatisfactory manner, going against best international practices
and principles of accountability and transparency as well as in utter
disregard of the lives and safety of the RMAF personnel who will be
using the helicopters.
How then can Azmi emerge from Wednesday’s meeting of the PAC on the
Eurocopter deal to issue a certificate of fitness for its technical
aspects as being “aboveboard” and “professionally carried out” when it
is the exact opposite in failing to pass muster in not having any
physical evaluation or test flight?
Instead of issuing a clean bill of health for the technical aspects of
the Eurocopter deal, the PAC should be conducting a full-scale
investigation as to why the vital tender requirement for a physical
evaluation had been done away with, which officers had been responsible
for such an outrageous decision, and up to what level had this exemption
from having to carry out test flights and other physical evaluation for
the three short-listed aircrafts been approved or authorized.
Were the Defence Minister and the Cabinet privy to the unprecedented
decision to procure the new helicopters without any test flight or
It would appear that the two-hour debate and grilling of Abu Seman had
elicited more information than the two-day PAC examination of the
Eurocopter deal – and if this is the case, is PAC Chairman Azmi out to
whitewash the Eurocopter deal or to diligently carry out the
parliamentary mandate to get to the bottom of the impropriety and
irregularity of the Eurocopter procurement including why there had been
no proper flight tests and physical evaluation before a selection is
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor